Anxiety/Depression… The Church's Dirty Little Secret

I tell people it feels like my eyeballs are about 2 inches farther back in my head.
Like I’m seeing things through 4 inch thick glass.
My hands and legs are weaker.
Lightheaded.
Sometimes dizzy.
My heart will palpitate…skip a beat or double beat.
My hands will shake a bit and my mind will race.
Then I close my eyes…
Breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth…
And remind myself that anxiety may be able to borrow my body for a moment but it can’t have my spirit.
This is what it’s like for a man in his 30’s who has suffered with anxiety symptoms for 10 years.
This happens in phases.
Sometimes daily.  Sometimes weekly.  Sometimes months will go by without an episode.
But it is very real.
And I know it is very real for many of you.
Anxiety and depression is one of the churches dirty little secrets.
People pop their little white seratonin balancing pills without telling anyone because of fear that they will be looked down upon.
I’m here to tell you that my Paxil a day has kept the doctor away.
That and exercise and eating well.
But I’m not crazy…
I’m not faithless…
I’m Carlos.  And I suffer from anxiety disorder.

How has anxiety and depression affected your life or the life of someone you love?
Los

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  • Sharon Jahr

    Thank you Carlos. Thank. You.

  • Benji Zimmerman

    Los – thanks for posting this today. Yesterday I went to a doctor to get my levels checked. During the process I came to find out I have an infection in my large intestine and that my adrenal glands are operating at such a low level that I am operating in a clinically depressed state daily.

    I was totally defeated to hear such news. I didn’t want to give myself a second chance. I believed the lie last night that pastors aren’t supposed to be depressed.

    Thanks for the reminder that I am not defined by this. I needed it today.

    • Yea. PAstors are some of the most depressed people out there…

  • Thank you so much for sharing this; it made my morning. My little sister very recently started dealing with symptoms of anxiety mixed with a few other things we can’t quite figure out yet, and she’s yet to turn 13. It’s been hard for her to deal with her anxiety because she’s so young and at an age of sheer confusion generally. It’s been a very bumpy ride over and this is just the beginning, but thank you for the comforting message that life does go on and, no matter how old you are, you learn to live with your anxiety without letting it get the best of you. Thank you so much for this hope.

    • There is hope Monica. Lot’s of it.

  • Susanna

    thanks for being open & honest…so many suffer alone & afraid…not only do we not need to suffer, but we should never be alone in the body of Christ. It’s sad that it’s way too often the case.

  • My wife has bi-polar disorder. Medication, therapy, sleep, exercise, and diet are all key ingredients to controlling this disorder. Through the tough times, our church, family, and friends have been there to help us weather the storms. There is no question that churches need to step up and be prepared to support those going through anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

    • How has the church stepped up or you guys?

  • Depression stole over 40 years of my life. I’ve struggled with depression since I was a child and I never sought help for it first because I felt like I should be able to beat it on my own and then after I came to Christ because I knew it would make me look weak and broken beyond repair to many around me.

    It cost me two marriages.

    It cost me most of the month away from my sons.

    It cost me several jobs.

    In fact, the mess I currently call life was heavily driven by the poor decisions coming out of depression.

    I finally sought help in October 2011. My life is still a pile of poo for the most part but I’m able to deal with it much better that I did in the past. Hopefully I won’t lose the rest of my life to this monster.

    • one breath at a time…
      you can…
      you will…

  • Anne A.

    Anxiety is fairly new to me, but depression has been a familiar foe of mine for over 15 yrs. When it strikes it feels like I have the flu and have no hope of ever recovering. Of course I “know” that’s a lie. But, paralyzed in the pit, truths blur and become dim. God has graced me with an amazing husband who helps me walk this journey. I am learning to practice the Presence of Christ despite the episodes of anxiety & depression I experience. God worthy to be praised!

    • Anne A.

      I meant “God is worthy to be praised!”

    • AMEN AND AMEN. In all seasons…

  • RDM

    Hi Carlos. My name is _______. I was recently officially diagnosed with depression. But I’ve secretly known I’ve had it for over 7 years. I just finally did something about it. A few of my friends know it, but only some of them really believe I struggle with it. It is so easy to hide. Well, sometimes. When it’s not easy, I just go into hiding.

    Reading your statement about anxiety borrowing your body for a short period of time, but it can’t take your spirit, made me realize that maybe I need to fight my depression more mentally than I have been. The pills help with the chemical imbalance, but not the emotional/mental imbalance. Maybe I will try talking back next time it gets dark. 🙂

    Thank you AGAIN for being so real. Your ministry to us is in your vulnerability, saturated with TRUTH. Blessings.

    • RDM. You can and you will. I know…

  • When I was in college, I was diagnosed with depression. In 2008 I ended up in the hospital twice because I was suicidal. I tried a variety of medications over the course of a year and a half, and none of them helped except the med that helped me sleep. I was so relieved that there was a name for why life felt so awful, because that meant there was a chance of getting help. I’m still in weekly therapy to help maintain my mental health. I still have bad weeks, bad months, but most of the time I feel normal now. I can’t even describe how awful it was not to feel joy or hope for a whole year. And while all this was happening, I was at a Christian university where everyone seemed to be happy, and I didn’t even know what I believed about God anymore. It was the worst time of my life, and sometimes I get scared that I’ll have another year that bad somewhere down the line.

    • You may…But we will know to pray.
      And I will have another too.
      But we can’t worry…
      We must live in the present…

      • Living in the present is definitely one of the toughest things I attempt every day. Not worrying about the future, not getting stuck in memories of the past. Just today.

  • I appreciate this post simply because of my own experiences.
    I used to work in ministry and walk away because of my dirty little secret.
    I remember going to the pastor I work side by side with and told them I had anxiety issues and to keep me in prayer….. after that we didn’t have much of a relationship. It broke my heart, but thats just how it is.
    I hope others, especially the church, begin to understand the human condition.

    • Amen Heather. I hope too,…

    • I think half of my church staff (I’m a youth pastor) suffers from depression. My pastor is in and out of it, and our worship pastor has been stuck in it for awhile. I’m in and out of it too. Most people expect ministers to just be happy and amped up all the time, and I think those expectations make it even harder. You’re definitely not alone!

      • I think the biggest thing I’ve come to understand is there’s a lot we deal with in ministry, our lives, the lives of other, the livelihood of the church, but rarely do we allow ourselves to come undone and decompress. Thats where my anxiety comes in, when I’m caught with no defenses because I’m tired. We need a support system for our leaders and ministers instead of waiting for it to turn into a tv scandal of sorts because of something we’ve done because of pain, depression, loneliness, panic.

  • Jen

    My husband suffers from both anxiety and depression. To the point where at one stage he couldn’t even drive for six months. We knew it had reached critical when a normally 5 minute drive took him every second of 45 minutes, as he had to keep doubling back to see if he’d hit something becase he’d taken his eyes off the road for a nanosecond.

    He’s doing good now, but it took a long time for him to come to terms with “having to take medication to be normal”. It was tough on him, especially as a worship leader. I don’t think many people know.

    Chonda Pierce has an EXCELENT segment on her own struggles with depression and the way the church deals with it… Badly. So very poignant and TRUE. My husband nodded and murmured agreement through both parts. I shared them with a girlfriend of mine when she was diagnosed, and she also found them very helpful.

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2twMznJHc3E&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pn5NZY_fQk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    • Thanks for this. I know Chonda and her story is so helpful!

  • This is wonderful! All too often we’re afraid to share the truth of it. I’m not sure if it is because we would be looked down upon, just fear it, or have our own feelings about that we must not be praying enough, worshiping enough, etc. We shouldn’t have to be alone amongst The Body!

  • Amy

    Thank you. I am a much better wife, mother, pastors wife since my balancing pill came into my life.

  • HeatherEV

    I am a 20 year old who has had depression her whole life. In high school, I developed anxiety on top of it. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in college (although I knew long before then what was wrong), when things got so bad I was desperate. Since then, because of all the hush-hush in the Christian circles, I have openly talked about my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety. Sometimes I get negative comments, but surprisingly, for the most part people are extremely kind and most have even been there or have known someone who has been there. It’s great to be open and talking and being someone others can talk to when they’re struggling, rather than feeling like I’m carrying around some sort of secret. It has impacted my whole life, making months and years nothing but blackness. Sometimes, it IS my life. I have known a darker dark than many realize even exists, and have survived. I hope my fight gives others who are struggling hope in their darkness, that they are not alone and that they can get through it, too.

    • You survived. And this community thanks you…

  • jennifer

    thank you for sharing this. i’ve been dealing with clinical depression for over 10 years now and it goes through different phases. it really is a proverbial rollar coaster ride i would much prefer to get off much of the time. it always helps me to see other Christians be open and honest about their struggles and remind me that there is hope and i am not alone. so thanks.

  • Sherry

    Thank you, Carlos!

    I am Sherry and I take medication for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Guess what? That medication is Prozac. And you know what else? IT WORKS!

    ‘Eeek!…Can you believe she said Premenstrual…???”

    Sherry

    PS You are not alone!

  • Adrienne

    I am the same way. I am 28 and have anxiety disorder. I have had symptoms for almost 10 years. I have been panic attack free for 6 months, and that happens sometimes, but other times it crashes in on you. Friends, Family, meds and Faith and Trust in the Lord are the solution. Thank you for letting everyone know that someone seeming so level can have issues in the background and that we are never alone.

  • Ben

    I’ve been suffering with depression for about a year now. I feel like my spirit no longer exists, and that getting back would be an impossible journey. I can’t relate to anyone, because I’m a robot who only does what he is told.

    Some days, I feel almost alive. Other times I want to go lash out at someone.

    My faith is/has been tested, and I can’t see Him.

    Lord God, gimme a reboot.

    • Sherry

      Have you seen a doctor, Ben?
      I will be praying for you and hope you will seek out a doctor for help!

      Sherry

    • annymous

      I think many of these symptoms are relieved by taking minerals magnesium, d3, zinc, calcium, manganese plus vitamin b -100 complex, and b12 daily plus multi vitmain and water 64 0z, fresh air and sun, exercise, and avoid toxic people and family get a support group. Much of depression and anxiety are to me diseases of the heart and emotions. Some religions are abusive and have nothing to do with the Lord.

  • Thank you so much for this. I have battled depression off and on since I got into the ministry and it with to epic levels once I became a church planter.

    A few weeks ago I got brave and blogged on it just to “out” myself to my family, friends and church family. Once I did within hours I got dozens of texts of encouragement, within days I got 100s of emails from other pastors dealing with the same.

    It felt so good to just bare my soul for everyone and to help others do the same.

    http://www.matthafer.com/2012/05/15/i-got-my-smile-back-pastors-and-depression/

  • Trish

    Carlos, thanks for being transparent. My husband has been battling anxiety/depression for a while, and started a prescription anti-depressant several months ago. After a few months, with both he and I admitting it was really making a difference, he stopped taking it because he felt like, as a Christian, he should be able to handle things without “drugs”…I want to share this with him, to show that he’s not alone, and that he doesn’t have to allow those thoughts/feelings to have full reign and control in his life.

    Thanks for sharing. You’ve encouraged me this morning.

  • Thank you for posting this at a time when many pastors here in California still preach against using medical and psychological research to treat medical conditions such as these. From what you mentioned, I get the impression you have some very good doctors and clinicians… please be sure to refer those with similar needs to them.

  • yeah.

    recently i was barred from service on a committee in my church because with mental illness i “might have a bad day and the work of the committee would come to a stop when people (because they are good people) would have to care for” me.

    really. the pastor actually said that.

    faith shaken?

    yes.

    maybe it never happened to you that you were twelve years old and you were just having a good time dancing and didn’t know you looked goofy until some other kid told you and you never wanted to dance again.

    it never happened to me until that pastor informed me i was unfit to serve.

    i still don’t feel right.

    • L.

      That pastor reminds me of that saying “There’s an ass for every cushion.” Would he say that to someone who had cancer? I bet not. Mental problems are just physical problems in the head. I know his comment hurts a lot (and barring you???), but please consider the source. I cringe to think what else that pastor is saying and doing to people. Hugs for you!

    • LindsayGee

      Hey Flask. I am so sorry to hear that. Your pastor has a LOT to learn about mental and emotional disorders. I bet he has never been through it himself. I would encourage you to look for a church where the ministry staff has a healthy view of mental disorders and how folks with anxiety and depression can be the amazing hands of God just like anyone else. More so, you can relate to other people inside and outside the church who struggle with the same emotions. Don’t let a misled minister keep you from letting God use your talents and experiences for His glory. In Christ, there is peace, not rejection. Peace, friend.

  • Scott

    About seven years ago, I was “diagnosed” with social and performance anxiety. The diagnosis was through a mainstream clinic that my insurance covered, and I went to counseling there for about four months, but I didn’t find a whole lot of help, especially for someone trying to live from a Biblical worldview.

    I “just dealt with it” after leaving that clinic, which meant spending a lot of time alone, not feeling connected at church, losing touch with friends that didn’t pursue me, and trying to ignore a lot of different emotions.

    After getting married and joining a new church, I was challenged to get more involved. I did, to some degree, and even found myself nominated as a deacon as the church grew and needed more servant leadership. But I just couldn’t reconcile it with my anxieties. I was overwhelmed with anxiety days before I was asked to lead communion (I had to cancel), and the thought of standing up in front of everyone to pray or do church announcements would cause my stomach to ache and my heartbeat to pound in my head.

    I have just recently found a Christian-perspective counseling office and have started to attend. I know it will be a slow process, and I know it is not likely that the anxiety disappears, but I am thankful for the small victories it has given me so far.

    Don’t be quiet; Share it with someone you love, share it with your small group/community group, etc. Ask for prayer and help, and keep asking until you get an answer or you find help.

  • Carlos,

    Thanks for writing this post….I will be sharing it with my clients. And your words are basically the reason that I wrote my book The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good? Trying to minimize that stigma and show the ways that God uses our anxiety to help us grow….

    Thanks.

    Rhett

    ps good chatting with you at Catalyst….

  • Joan Ball

    I have mixed thoughts on this post Carlos. While I know you well enough to know it was not your intention, it could appear that you are saying that treatment for depression and anxiety and medication are the same thing. While pharma interventions are sometimes necessary, there are also many practitioners who overuse this one tool in what should be a much more complex and patient specific approach to long term treatment and care of mental/emotional illness. I would hate to see the church to go from one extreme (silence and stigma) to the other (medicine first/only). There is a balanced middle way that can and should be pursued with a good team of medical doctors, psychiatrists and spiritual advisors who understand that we are physical, spiritual and emotional beings and that the pharma industry, while offering helpful products, is also a very large and sometimes unscrupulous machine. Much to be discerned here.

    • I didn’t get the sense that he was advocating for everyone to go start popping pills. He was sharing his experience. My hunch is that he’d completely agree with you. 🙂

  • Alice

    Well, this week very directly. I have been going though a rough time with my anxiety and depression. I also have complex PTSD – which means I have trauma spanning over long periods of time instead of just a single event.

    Over the last two weeks I have been dealing with the adjustment from major abdominal surgery. Everyone at my church knew and I still have not received even a phone call regarding my surgery or recovery.

    I went to church on Sunday and I really just wanted to worship and pray – alone. This is where the problem has started. I guess that declining prayer is a sin. Since Sunday, i have not been contacted by my church except through text message asking me not to return.

    Feeling as if God hates me and expressing that is why they have asked me to leave. The pastor’s statement to me was, “If I can’t believe in his love for me, maybe this is not the church for you.” I think this is why people don’t like christians. They are supposed to help, but instead cast you out and treat you like a pariah.

    In talking with some friends, it seems that a drug/alcohol addiction is much more “acceptable” in the church. I never turned to drugs or alcohol, I became withdrawn & unable to cope with my emotons. Most of my church is in recovery from drugs or alcohol. I thought my crazy wouldn’t be so bad here and I could make a home.

    i feel so broken right now and alone.

    I consider myself a new Christian, as I love Jesus, but have trouble with trust and other anxiety issues.

    • Jenny

      You need to find a new church! This is not how Christians should treat one another. A pastor should know that life is messy sometimes and his job is to shepherd his sheep. Not kick them out if they don’t act the way he thinks they should. Don’t blame this on yourself! Find a church where you feel welcome.

  • It took me 8 years to muster-up the courage to make an appointment with a therapist. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve always been against meds, not only because the church seems to think they’re unnecessary, but because I didn’t want to “depend” on them. I was afraid of my insurance changing and then not being able to get the med and then blaming my craziness on it. Despite my concerns, I started taking some within the last year and it’s been really helpful.

    Anyway, I’m a pastor and I’ll probably get Phil 4:6-7 tattooed on me someday, but I’m a HUGE believer that the right therapist and the right meds can be life-savers. Thanks for sharing your experience, Carlos.

  • I have PTSD and I take medicine for severe depression and anxiety. For the longest time, I kept hearing how medicine is a cop out because my joy should come from Christ. How as a recovering alcoholic and addict, every time I take an antidepressant or anxiety pill, I am relasping. So I stopped taking my medicine. In less than a month, I was considering suicide daily and cutting constantly to keep the anxiety an depression under control. Finally my counselor found out and told me that everyone else was wrong. My brain works differently than others and my medicine puts me on a level playing field. But now I keep it hidden. Because there is a lot of shame surrounded by this in church. And that saddens me deeply.

  • The church would be such a more wonderful place if we let these things out. I have dealt with Anx/Dep in the past. Fortunately, right now I am in a good place.

  • I’m a physician (child and adolescent psychiatry) involved in research with kids who suffer from anxiety and/or depression. I’m saddened that out of nearly 50 replies, I didn’t see responses from folks talking about how their church reached out to them and supported them in their distress.

    Is it possible that for some people God is using anxiety to draw us into a closer relationship with Him? It’s a different way of looking at Phil 4:6-7.

    Rhett Smith posted above…his book “The Anxious Christian” is the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject. Here’s a link to a great interview Rhett did for a ministry where I serve:

    http://drgrcevich.wordpress.com/the-anxious-christian-can-god-use-your-anxiety-for-good/

    • HeatherEV

      I didn’t mention it in my post, but the biggest reason I survived those deep moments of sorrow were the Church being around me supporting me like they did. I wouldn’t have made it through without them, and they have been my lifeline through the hell I have experienced. Their support is the biggest reason I try to reach out to those suffering now and encourage them. I want to give the gift I have been given, of community and love. The thing people struggling with mental illness need most is other people to support them and be with them in their suffering.

  • I fixing to tick off a bunch of you. I was an evangelical jesus follower for over 25 years. I held the beliefs, lived the life and everything. I no longer hold those beliefs and no longer consider myself a christian. I finally had the honesty to admit that I see no evidence that anything in the bible is trustworthy, that jesus is a hyped up figure, if he lived at all and there is no all knowing, all loving, all powerful heavenly father. This entire thread about meds and doctors is exactly the kind of thing that led me to draw these conclusions. For over 25 years, I heard a LOT of talk about god providing ALL our needs “according to his riches in christ jesus” and being the healer, “by his stripes we are healed” etc. For all the loud talk about divine healing, all the christians I ever knew sure depended heavily on medication and doctors and surgery and chemo and so forth. I submit that most of you don’t REALLY believe that god will make it all better. Does god heal or doesn’t he? That is the fundamental question. And this thread is all the evidence I need. If god is a divine healer, why do you need meds and doctors? I don’t fault any of you for seeking treatment or taking meds that help you. That is the reasonable course of action. But for crying out loud, please admit that maybe this divine healing doesn’t come like you all desperate proclaim that is does. When you take a pill and don’t feel as depressed or anxious, don’t give credit to some made up being, give credit to some scientist who figured out that this certain chemical causes a reaction in the brain that generates this other chemical that lessens the effects of depression. Please spare me this “doctors and medications are just tools that god uses to heal”. That is a cop out.

    • HeatherEV

      I wrote a post about this on my blog if you’re willing to go take a read. It might give you a different perspective.
      http://christiangirl3712.posterous.com/chemicals-or-christ

      • Steve

        I commend you for getting the help you need to live. However, I stand by my assertion that “jesus heals through natural means” is a cop out. Why would a supernatural, all powerful god “heal” you through utterly human and natural means. How is gods awesomeness displayed in this? By this logic, an unbeliever and access divine healing simply by taking commonly prescribed medication.

        • HeatherEV

          Because, as God says, “the sun rises on the good and the bad.” God is gracious and gives glimpses of His blessings and headings to everyone. Because He is good. And He loves. I know I won’t convince you, but I know I will have tried, and that’s the best I can do.
          But I’m confused about something: I don’t know why, if you don’t believe in God, you frequent places where He is talked about and waste your precious few moments alive arguing with people you won’t convince. I really don’t understand it. Can you tell me why? What is your motivation and goal in this? You only have so much time on earth and then you’re gone forever. Why waste it here arguing over something you don’t believe?

          • When you realize the person and system you’ve spent 25 years serving isn’t real, its a sad and scary thing and not easily given up. There could be that person reading this who has been living this life and knows deep down that christianity isn’t real. Challenging the inconsistencies of christianity may help this person know they are not alone, that you admit what you know is true and walk away and be ok. I peruse this sight because it’s often amusing.

          • HeatherEV

            Interesting. I’ve never asked an athiest that. But why care? If you aren’t accountable to anyone, why waste your time trying to help others instead of just putting all your energy into getting as far as you can in life? Why not do something to leave your mark on this world or at least make tons of money and leave it to your kids? Why help strangers? In fact, why do anything at all? It all means nothing in the long run. You die and that’s it. Why do you even get out of bed? Seems pretty dismal to me.
            And how do you know that you’re right?
            I get the entertainment factor, though. Sometimes us Christians can be pretty ridiculous 😉

          • You may find it hard to believe, but having no religious belief doesn’t necessarily mean we have no reason to live. We enjoy life, care about our community, care about others. When I was in church I was miserable. Since I’ve left, I’ve never been happier and more at peace. If my journey will be a help to somebody, than all the better. I don’t know that I’m right. I just see no verifiable evidence that anything in the bible is true. Two small examples: talking snake and talking donkey. When someone can produce evidence that the bible is true, other than something else in the bible, I’ll consider it. Been nice conversing with you, but neither of us is ready to change our point of view and we better not take up more space here. Take care.

    • Jessica C

      I think assuming God only heals in a certain way is putting him in a box. Yes, a scientist came up with the pill to balance the brain chemicals but I believe God created that scientist and gave him the knowledge to create the medication. I think God does heal us and He does so in many different ways, including getting us connected with the right doctors to give us the right medications.

      So often we miss God’s work in our lives because it doesn’t come in the way we expect it to.

    • Sharon Fawcett

      Steve,

      I don’t know if you will ever read this, as your last post was eight months ago on this blog topic, but I was the recipient of the kind of divine healing from mental illness that you were sceptical of in your post.

      I was diagnosed with major clinical depression at the age of 26, and developed anorexia nervosa shortly afterwards. The anorexia threatened my life for three years; the depression for nine. The cause of my depression was a mystery for some time and I accepted every form of medical treatment offered to me including 20 different antidepressant medications; more than 100 electro-convulsive treatments (shock treatments); psychotherapy; and many forms of psychological therapy including anger management, behaviour modification, and cognitive behaviour therapies. In those nine years I spent 80 weeks as a patient in hospital psychiatric wards and survived one suicide attempt. In spite of receiving excellent medical and psychological care, the depression remained. It was relentless.

      In the ninth year of my depression, my psychiatrist told me that she was considering changing my diagnosis to treatment refractory depression—which essentially is depression that does not respond to most forms of treatment. It was then that I decided to seek spiritual counselling from a Christian counsellor. I had been a Christian since I was a young child and at the time my depression began, I was very involved in my church. However, it never occurred to me to seek spiritual counselling
      because doctors convinced me that depression was either biochemically-rooted or
      emotionally-rooted.

      The counsellor used prayer, Biblical principles, and the Steps to Freedom in Christ in our sessions. One of the most powerful things I did with my Christian counsellor was listening prayer for inner healing through which God revealed to me several lies I had believed for most of my life, and replaced those lies with His truth. I came to discover that believing these lies had directed the way I had chosen to live my life and led to the spiritual roots of my “mental illness”—low self-worth, fear, shame,
      unforgiveness, and spiritual malnourishment. When God replaced these lies with
      His truth, my life was transformed.

      Three months after the first session with my Christian counsellor, my nine-year long depression ended. I never returned to the psychiatric ward, never had another electro-convulsive treatment, and no longer needed medication or the care of a psychiatrist. Fourteen years have passed and I remain free from depression—without medication or treatment.

      While I would never wish to live through
      depression again, and it stole much from me and my family, I am able to look
      back now and see how I also benefitted from it. I was a prisoner to fear,
      shame, obsessive-compulsive workaholism, and people-pleasing long before
      depression entered my life. If it hadn’t been for the illness, I would probably
      still be living that way. But depression provided the motivation and
      opportunity for me to stop and evaluate myself—my life, emotions, and beliefs.
      In so-doing, I was eventually set free to live the life I had been created for—a
      life full of passion, peace, and purpose.

      So, I don’t see depression as an enemy out to destroy us. It can actually be a necessary forward stride toward emotional and spiritual healing and growth.

      If you are interested in reading more about my story, you can download the first chapter of my book “Hope for Wholeness: The Spiritual Path to Freedom from Depression” at no cost, here: http://www.sharonfawcett.com/index.php/books/
      (just click “download PDF” on the beige bar beneath the book cover image).

      God can heal mental illness. The fact that I am alive today is proof.

    • Sharon Fawcett

      Steve,

      I don’t know if you will ever read this, as your last post was eight
      months ago on this blog topic, but I was the recipient of the kind of
      divine healing from mental illness that you were sceptical of in your
      post.

      I was diagnosed with major clinical depression at the age of 26, and
      developed anorexia nervosa shortly afterwards. The anorexia threatened my
      life for three years; the depression for nine. The cause of my depression
      was a mystery for some time and I accepted every form of medical treatment
      offered to me including 20 different antidepressant medications; more than
      100 electro-convulsive treatments (shock treatments); psychotherapy; and
      many forms of psychological therapy including anger management, behaviour
      modification, and cognitive behaviour therapies. In those nine years I
      spent 80 weeks as a patient in hospital psychiatric wards and survived one
      suicide attempt. In spite of receiving excellent medical and psychological
      care, the depression remained. It was relentless.

      In the ninth year of my depression, my psychiatrist told me that she was
      considering changing my diagnosis to treatment refractory depression—which
      essentially is depression that does not respond to most forms of
      treatment. It was then that I decided to seek spiritual counselling from a
      Christian counsellor. I had been a Christian since I was a young child and
      at the time my depression began, I was very involved in my church.
      However, it never occurred to me to seek spiritual counselling because doctors convinced me that depression was either biochemically-rooted or emotionally-rooted.

      The counsellor used prayer, Biblical principles, and the Steps to Freedom
      in Christ in our sessions. One of the most powerful things I did with my
      Christian counsellor was listening prayer for inner healing through which
      God revealed to me several lies I had believed for most of my life, and
      replaced those lies with His truth. I came to discover that believing
      these lies had directed the way I had chosen to live my life and led to
      the spiritual roots of my “mental illness”—low self-worth, fear, shame, unforgiveness,
      and spiritual malnourishment. When God replaced these lies with His truth, my
      life was transformed.

      Three months after the first session with my Christian counsellor, my nine-year
      long depression ended. I never returned to the psychiatric ward, never had
      another electro-convulsive treatment, and no longer needed medication or
      the care of a psychiatrist. Fourteen years have passed and I remain free
      from depression—without medication or treatment.

      While I would never wish to live through depression again, and it stole much
      from me and my family, I am able to look back now and see how I also benefitted
      from it. I was a prisoner to fear, shame, obsessive-compulsive workaholism, and
      people-pleasing long before depression entered my life. If it hadn’t been for
      the illness, I would probably still be living that way. But depression provided
      the motivation and opportunity for me to stop and evaluate myself—my life,
      emotions, and beliefs. In so-doing, I was eventually set free to live the life
      I had been created for—a life full of passion, peace, and purpose.

      So, I don’t see depression as an enemy out to destroy us. It can actually
      be a necessary forward stride toward emotional and spiritual healing and
      growth.

      If you are interested in reading more about my story, you can download the
      first chapter of my book “Hope for Wholeness: The Spiritual Path to
      Freedom from Depression” at no cost, here:
      http://www.sharonfawcett.com/index.php/books/

      (just click “download PDF” on the beige bar beneath the book cover image).

      God can heal mental illness. The fact that I am alive today is proof.

    • alisa dixon

      I just came across this heartbreaking post today … I realize it has been 3 years since it was written .. and I PRAY that there has been a heart change since that time …but just in case that has not happened .. I PRAY GOD will get this to you because …I so totally understand that sickness and or pain that is not healed can lead to heartbreak and sometimes even anger … I have a daughter that has an Anxiety disorder… It is heart breaking to watch … I have a grand daughter that has Autism/ ADD/ Seizures and will never function at more than a 12 year old level… I have a husband that has heart disease … and I have teeth that simply fall apart … We ALL have physical issues we deal with … Even Paul the GREAT MAN of God had an issue that he prayed 3 times asking for God to take it away … but God said NO ….2 Corinthians 12:8 …but none of this was or is God’s desire or fault. Go back my friend …to the BEGINNING .. THAT was God’s desire for us… A BEAUTIFUL garden … with LOVE ..Peace … No sickness … No anger … No sadness .. That is the LIFE God wanted us to have … He gave them EVERYTHING WONDERFUL ….but told them that there was ONE BAD thing in the midst of the garden (the tree where satan was) and that they were to STAY AWAY from it ..He told them DO NOT eat of the tree in the midst of the garden … but sadly man did not listen to God … and satan seduced him with a LIE … which brought SIN into the perfect place God had created for us …..and because of that SIN …man was CAST OUT of that perfect world into a world (WE CHOSE) …OF ..SICKNESS, and DEATH. We will NEVER be rid of sickness …UNTIL … we get BACK to the BEGINNING … which will be HEAVEN …BACK to what GOD INTENDED for us from the BEGINNING …. and the ONLY way YOU and I will get there is if we believe GOD’s message of TRUTH … that He so LOVED the WORLD that HE sent His only SON Jesus, that WHOSOEVER …BELIEVES in HIM should not perish but HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE … Jesus my friend … SUFFERED and DIED for YOUR sin and MY sin … to make a way for us to ESCAPE the curse of sickness and death for all ETERNITY .. in HEAVEN … not here … I pray you will not listen to … or believe the LIE of satan as Adam did and be cast out of God’s Heaven ….to be sent to the place where satan dwells …where you will live FOREVER in your sickness …in a place of the stench of death .How I PRAY … I will SEE YOU there in HEAVEN …GOD’S Desire for YOU … In you BRAND NEW …BEAUTIFUL … HEALTHY ..Body….GOD BLESS <3

  • and let me add that I completely understand the stigma of taking meds for depression anxiety, etc. in the church. That is why I had serious questions and found no answers in “the word of god”.

  • Jen C

    I was diagnosed with bipolar ii about 4 years ago, although looking back, I can see evidence of it back in high school. I also deal with anxiety and have been since I was very young – elementary school.

    I’ve never really received anything particularly supportive (in regards to my bipolar) from any church I’ve attended. Sometimes the church even made things worse.
    However, I have several supportive friends and family that I turn to. I take a daily medication and an as-needed medication. I also have weekly therapy sessions that are helpful.

    This past winter I dealt with one of the longest darkest depressions of my life. I changed psychiatrists, got my medications adjusted and am starting to feel good again.

    Also, I have decided to go back to college in the fall. I’m really excited about it, but I am concerned that some of the triggers will be there again. I really think this is where the Holy Spirit is leading me, and I am so looking forward to it, but in the back of my mind I am wondering if/how much of a struggle it will be.

    I appreciate who I am because of what I struggle through, but I’m still trying to see how this works into God’s story of my life.

    One day at a time. Focusing on the positives, the small victories. Listening for the next direction from God & clinging to His hand as we walk.

  • rick

    Thank you.

  • Greg

    Los….thank you. I needed this. I have lived with depression, anxiety and panic attacks for a decade. It comes in cycles and the past 6 months have been rough.

    While faith, counseling and meds are key, one important aspect I want to mention is family. My wife has been the true example of unconditional love. She has held me, cried with me, let me sleep, talked with me and walked through this with me all while being abandoned by “friends” (church and non-church) she really needed during the roughest periods. She needed someone to talk to, but the stigma was too great.

    Too many times, the spouses, parents, brothers, sisters and friends of those walking through depression/anxiety/panic are overlooked for the care giving role they carry. She gives love. She shows grace. God knew the woman I would need in life.

    Thank you for this quote. This will be one I will definitely keep:

    “Breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth…
    And remind myself that anxiety may be able to borrow my body for a moment but it can’t have my spirit.”

  • Glad to know I’m not the only one. I take Prozac and Busipirone every day for Anziety and OCD. Thankfully, I’m a worship leader in a church that I can be open and real in. I’m able to share my struggles with people that truly don’t understand the hell that anxiety really is. They think it’s random panic attacks. They don’t understand it’s a daily battle for control of your mind.

    The lies don’t win. Our God is greater than anxiety (and sometimes he uses little white pills to help us deal with it too!)

  • Rob S

    My wife has been dealing with the symptoms you listed there for nearly 2 years. She was on medication, but it didn’t do the trick. She was going to go in for a stronger dose, but the anxiety of returning to the doctor was too much.

    She’s getting so much better at managing it now, but we just keep hoping/praying that things go back to normal.

  • Thank you for speaking openly about this. I deal with dysthymia, a type of depression. I was so ashamed to have to take medication that I avoided dealing with my depression.

    I released an ebook this spring sharing my story and tips that I’ve found help manage my depression: http://www.findingjoyindepression.com

  • Jeff

    I couldn’t even go out to dinner without feeling sick. Anytime we would gather with friends I would feel like I was going to throw up. Finally it took having to go home because I was sick from anxiety on a Sunday morning leading worship. That’s when I went to the doctor and he put me on Lexapro. Changed my life forever. I’m so thankful for that little white pill!

    I also was able to gather courage because of the post you wrote a few months or years ago at this point. Carlos, thank you for your acceptance and promotion of this disorder which helps those with it feel better about themselves.

  • Thank you for sharing something so personal with all of us. For many years, I hid my struggle with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Depression from most everyone I went to church with. I’ve sought Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication for treatment. Thankfully, this combination has been life changing and I credit my Lord for providing this help to me. In the last couple of years I have disclosed my illness to many staff members of my church and to many fellow believers. The reaction has been nothing short of kind, compassionate, and loving. I am so grateful to worship with a congregation of people who understand that we are all broken in some way or another. My heart breaks for those whose churches do not respond in kind. Thank you for bringing light to a scary subject.

  • Rick White

    Carlos: Most of my adult life and ministry I have dealt with depression. So thankful that our “God is the God of chemistry” as well as healing. Thanks for your openness in sharing your journey.

  • C.A.Writer

    I suffer from Depression, mild germophobia and mild OCD. I could care less what people think of it. Not like I chose to have it in my life.

  • I’m Tamara, and I rock the Avanza daily.
    A teensy 30mg pill helps me sleep at night and turns the days when I couldn’t get out of bed into days when I struggle, but survive.
    I hated it at first. But the Avanza helps me be me, without the cloud of depression over my head.

  • Tim

    Same prescription bottle is in my medicine cabinet. Thanks for speaking truth into these places for so many people and giving them permission to share it with others. I’m learning to embrace these places of weakness and seeing God’s beauty in them. He is good.

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  • Jessica C

    My problem hasn’t been with the church but with my parents. When I tried to talk to them about my anxiety in high school, they quoted Philippians 4:6-7 and told me I just needed to have more faith in Christ and He would take my anxiety away. It wasn’t until I was out of college and on my own that I was finally able to seek the help that I needed. I still haven’t been able to tell my parents about the medication because I don’t think they would understand.

    I think in general the Church (and maybe even America) is uneducated on mental disorders. They don’t understand and therefore they don’t know how to help those of us who are struggling.

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  • Depression is the reason I am who I am.

    My mom got really bad post-pardum when my brother was born. I wasn’t even two yet. When I say “really bad,” I mean the kind of depression that makes it an accomplishment to get out of bed in the morning, or, somedays, it’s an accomplishment to even wake up.

    For whatever reason, I have my theories, but none of them have been confirmed by the man in question, my dad chose to accept an overseas position at his company shortly after my mom was diagnosed. He would spend months on end across the sea.

    I have vivid memories of my mom teaching us to wrap cheese around apples and call it a meal for when she couldn’t provide one. I remember my mom asking me to choose what to make for dinner, because she simply couldn’t do it anymore. I remember her voice coming out in a monotone, because she was doing all she could to stay upright.

    I remember asking her many years later why she didn’t kill herself, because the doctors were honestly surprised that he hadn’t (not that I wanted her to have, just because I couldn’t believe it either). Do you know what she said to me? “Because someone needed to take care of you.”

    Yes, I have issues with emotional expression and availability, but, let me tell you, it is replaced by intense loyalty and provision.

    I think the church needs to be less judgmental of of people’s “problems” and more open to people not being little happy drones. Maybe, then, we can all start looking out for each other and lending a hand where it’s needed.

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  • Imani

    I have dealt with anxiety both as a young child and adult. Depression as always nipping at my heels. Thank you for being so honest and sharing, it’s easy to feel all alone fighting this fight.

  • Lauren

    Thank you. I haven’t read through all of the comments, but I’m sure I’ll be echoing someone.

    I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember, without knowing what it was. I was pretty good at hiding what I was experiencing. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I was hit with depression and my parents could see it and got me to a psychiatrist.

    The diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder alone was a huge thing for me. To know that there is a physiological difference that I have no control over was freeing.

    With the help of meds, I’m learning to recognize the anxieties I can and should give over to God and those that are physical responses. I have a much better faith and outlook on life, and I praise God!

  • tjq

    I do not think it was an accident I came across your site…. I want to encourage anyone out there with severe anxiety to seek out meds! They can be very helpful. I met a wonderful man that suffered terribly. He was taking paxil for 11 years. For different reasons, he decided to stop taking it…cold turkey (advice from an idiot Phd). In the 5 months that followed, he turned into someone I didn’t know anymore….and then he ended a wonderful relationship. I am still heartbroken…..and pray everyday that he gets back on Meds (at least for his well being). He suffered all types of withdrawal symptoms and then was just angry and stressed all the time…it was horrible to witness and even worse to lose my best friend….thanks for your honesty and helping to erase the stigma of anxiety disorder and meds.

  • Jane

    My post might make people angry or mad or see me as the problem in the church. While I do agree with the fact that there are people who suffer greatly from mental illnesses, I have to question why is it happening so much & so often?

    I personally believe it is because we have put so much stake in “perfecting” ourselves, we rely on ourselves & self-gratification & have less & less faith in God.

    Ultimately, for myself, I came to the conclusion that I had fallen for the lie that God had left me out. Out of what? Out of something good, something great. Maybe this is not true for all people, but I discovered my depression stemmed from the deepest pit of self-love, because to be perfectly honest, if I really hated myself as much as I said I did, I wouldn’t care about what my picture looked like or have so many freaking insecurities. I simply wouldn’t care or even attempt to take care of myself. Having dealt with depression myself, I found that my darkest days came from when I wasn’t working, going to church & just in this hopeless spiral spinning further & further out of control.

    By a shear miracle I found my eyes open to the lie I had been listening to for so long. I fought everyday to take the focus OFF of me & onto HIM. I started pouring myself into my church & walk again and I saw this is what I truly needed.

    Hate me or not, but I see most “remedies” of pills as just adding more focus onto yourself & one more thing that is “wrong” with you. This is why I believe some “side effects” make people more depressed or more suicidal, because it does nothing more than feed our self-loathing or mask our needs to be broken before our savior. We are broken, & that is what makes out redeemer so great.

    I don’t want to make waves here, but I wish for people to see truth in all things, & that “popping a pill” may not always be the answer.

    Some of us will have to fight it ever single day, but this may be what God needs from you to rely fully on Him.

    • Sherri Adelman

      Mental illness is no different than physical illness. Does someone with cancer who takes medication or someone with heart disease who takes medication just need to focus more on God? Do they just need to stop thinking so much of themselves? No – they have a disease, an illness that needs treatment. That is the same thing with mental illness. Taking medication doesn’t mask my need to be broken before Jesus – if anything it makes me more aware of my brokenness and need for Him.

  • Jacob

    Thank you for this post. Just this week, I was asked by the worship “pastor” at our church to take time off from leading worship in the band because I had recently revealed to him that I’m battling depression. I told him a couple of weeks ago that I realized a couple months back that I was depressed. I made an appointment to visit my physician and he also agreed and prescribed some medication for me…which has really made a difference!

    When I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago, I just asked him to pray for me because I was in a really “dark” place, but also mentioned that the symptoms seemed to be improving somewhat after being on the medication for a month. And here’s the kicker….

    I realized that my root cause of depression was past hurts from the church…especially at the hands of leaders within the church realm (not necessarily at my church).

    But what made it even worse is that the worship pastor told me that he didn’t know how people could “really” have depression and just chalked it up to me being “sensitive” (this guy is notorious for being callous and cold towards people – which makes me wonder why he’s a pastor or worship leader. However, he’s pretty young – 25 I think – and has a lot to learn.).

    I told him that pulling me out of the band for an indefinite amount of time would only make me spiral into a darker place (which it has done), but he doesn’t care. I told him that I NEED to be involved in the band to heal, but he thinks HE knows best. The senior pastor at our church deals with depression and had compassion on me. He didn’t override the worship pastor’s decision, but he did tell me that when I felt I was ready to come back to the band that I should let him know and he would let the worship pastor know to put me back on.

    What should I do? Should I stay at this church or move on? I know the senior pastor wants me there at the church. He even told me that I’m the strongest worship leader the church has and that our church would greatly suffer if I left (I WAS the volunteer worship pastor for 3 years there until the other worship pastor was hired – he is the nephew of one of the elders). I just want to be where God wants me to be, but it’s going to be tough working in ministry underneath a worship pastor who completely disregards my real and significant condition.

  • Thank you. I’ve had depression for more than 20 years, including 2 episodes of Major Depression, but this year, at 40, was the first time I felt I could acknowledge it and seek treatment. I feel like a new person, like a physical weight has been lifted off my shoulders( I literally feel lighter), and there is this tremendous relief that while life is still complicated and full of stress, it’s no longer such an overwhleming struggle.
    Thank you for speaking up. I pray that more of us will do the same, and that we will reach out to those who are still hiding, still waiting for permission to seek help.
    Thank you.

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  • Sherri Adelman

    Thank you for sharing this. I only recently came across this. I joined Jon Acuff’s #StartExp (not sure if you know of him or that, but….) I was already blogging and writing about mental illness. I wrote a blog called “Coming out of the closet (sort of speak) and have recently started a new blog http://www.nottoobrokenforGod.com seeking to help those who feel completely hopeless and like they are to broken for God to heal and also to help end the stigma of mental health in the Church and in society. This has become a dream and passion. I am working on a book and feel it is so important for people to know they aren’t alone. It’s OK to take medication – you wouldn’t tell someone with cancer or heart disease to stop taking their medication. Yet, I’ve been told I just need more faith or more Jesus. No. I suffer with anxiety and need medication in order to survive sometimes and that is OK. Thank you for this. The more people that speak out the closer we get to erasing the stigma around mental illness!

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